Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ross E. Lockhart's Word Horde and Tales of Jack the Ripper

In the past few weeks I've worked on three projects by former Night Shade Books assets. "Assets" -- don't you just love that word? It's so wonderful when the publishing industry refers to its authors -- people -- human beings! -- as assets. I tend to think of assets as material objects: company cars, machinery, inventory -- property; but not people. And maybe, just maybe, that's why the traditional book publishing business is in the asset hole that it currently finds itself, as more and more assets -- people -- leave traditional publishing to self-publish and/or set up their own micro presses.

The first of the three projects was Bradley P. Beaulieu's self-published short fiction collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, which I blogged about here; and the second project is the forthcoming collection of Company stories, In the Company of Thieves, by Kage Baker and Kathleen Bartholomew, from Tachyon Publications -- which I blogged about here.

Which brings me to my most recent project:

There is a new publisher in town, virtually speaking, that is: Word Horde press.

After serving five years as the anchor that centered and steadied the inevitable tsunami-bound ship that was Night Shade Books, Ross E. Lockhart formed his own publishing venture earlier this year, and thus we have Word Horde.

Cover art by Arnaud de Vallois
While at Night Shade, Ross edited the two epic Lovecraftian anthologies -- The Book of Cthulhu and The Book of Cthulhu II. Now, with the launch of Word Horde, Ross's first book -- the enthralling Tales of Jack the Ripper -- affirms the Ripper's Whitechapel slayings in 1888, 125 years ago.

You can read the official Press Release, which includes a complete list of the contents of the anthology, but let me take this opportunity to excerpt just a paragraph from that PR:
The story of Jack the Ripper captured lurid headlines and the public's imagination, and the first fictionalization of the Ripper killings, John Francis Brewer's The Curse Upon Mitre Square appeared in October of 1888, mere weeks after the discovery of Jack's first victim. Since then, hundreds of stories have been written about Bloody Jack, his victims, and his legacy. Authors ranging from Marie Belloc Lowndes to Robert Bloch to Harlan Ellison to Roger Zelazny to Alan Moore have added their own tales to the Ripper myth. Now, as we arrive at the quasquicentennial of the murders, we bring you a few tales more.

Of the seventeen stories (and two bookending poems by Ann K. Schwader) included in this volume, fourteen of them are original to the anthology. (Again, check the official PR for a list of the contents.) The three reprint stories are by a few authors you may even recognize: Ramsey Campbell, Alan M. Clark and Gary A. Braunbeck, and Joe R. Lansdale.

Every themed anthology faces the issue of repetitive content: Can the editor -- and the contributing authors -- maintain the reader's interest/attention through fifteen or twenty or more stories without yielding to theme overload? After reading (and copy editing) Tales of Jack the Ripper this past week, I believe this anthology successfully (and I use that word with emphasis) responds to this issue. While reading these stories I found myself amidst the offal and stink of the back alleys of 1888 Whitechapel; questioning who the Ripper really was (a female assailant?); tracking how the "Ripper disorder" skipped generations to present day; and more.

It's probably best not to read the stories in Tales of Jack the Ripper at night -- and alone.

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